We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Who Were the “Sons of God” in Genesis 6?


This article will attempt to answer the question, “Who were the 'sons of God' and the 'daughters of men' of Genesis Chapter 6:1-4?"  Bible passages will be from the Holman Christian Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.

When mankind began to multiply on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were beautiful, and they took any they chose as wives for themselves.  And the LORD said, ‘My Spirit will not remain with mankind forever, because the are corrupt.  Their days will be 120 years.’  The Nephilim were on the earth both in those days and afterwards, when the sons of God came to the daughters of man, who bore children to them.  They were the powerful men of old, the famous men.”

According to all the commentators I've read, the Nephilim were the offspring of the "sons of God" and the "daughters of man."  Although the text in English doesn't specifically state this (it only says they were around at the same time), I have always accepted the view of the scholars.

Let’s look at the phrase “sons of God” and see where it appears in the Bible, and what the Hebrew actually says (from Wikipedia):
Gen. 6:2  bənê hāʼĕlōhîm — the sons of Elohim
Job 1:6, 2:1    bənê hāʼĕlōhîm — the sons of Elohim
Job 38:7   bənê ĕlōhîm — (lacking the definite article) sons of godly beings

Now let’s look at them in context:
Job 1:6, 2:1:  "One day the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them."

Job 38:6-7:  "What supports its [earth's] foundations? Or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

In Job 1:6, we can easily see that the “sons of God” are heavenly beings, i.e. “angels” of some type.  It says that when they came to God, Satan was with them.  This seems to be saying that Satan is one of the “sons of God.”

Job 38:6-7 is an example of Hebrew parallelism, where the “morning stars” are the same as “sons of God.”  The allusion is to angels who watched God creating the earth, and therefore had to be created first.  

So, with the two passages in Job it appears that the term “sons of God” refers to angels.

In Daniel 3:25 the person in the furnace [angel] is described as looking like “a son of the gods” (HCSB) or “the son of God” (KJV).  A similar term is “sons of the mighty” (or “heavenly beings”) in Psalm 29:1 and 89:6.

There have traditionally been four main theories to who these "sons of God” of Genesis are:
1.  Fallen angels
2.  "Godly" descendants of Seth.
3.  Kings or rulers described as "gods."
4.  Humans possessed by demonic fallen angels.

1.  Fallen angels.  This is the theory I subscribe to, since other uses of the phrase refer to angels. According to Gary Bates, in his book, Alien Intrusion, this view was held by the translators of the Septuagint . .  ., ancient Jewish interpreters, the historian Josephus, the earliest Christian writers, and by many modern notable Christian apologists today.
The main objection to this happens to be based on Jesus’ statement that, like the angels, there won’t be marriage or marrying in heaven in the resurrection.  That does not say that angels were never capable of marrying, or that they were not capable of sexual unions with humans.  In every event with angels in the Bible, they appear in physical bodies in the form of men, and in Gen. 18 even ate food. 

In Jude 6, he says, “and He has kept, with eternal chains in darkness for the judgment of the great day, angels who did not keep their own position but deserted their proper dwelling.”  This has been explained by many commentators as pointing to the incident with the “sons of God,” as well as other fallen angels (demons).  Likewise, 2 Peter 2:4-5 says, “For if God didn’t spare the angels who sinned, but threw them down into Tartarus and delivered them to be kept in chains of darkness until judgment…”  These are most likely the same angels Jude is referring to.

Remember, the passage in Genesis said that the sons of God “took” the women they wanted — the implication being that they had the power to take what they wanted without question.  And the fact that their offspring were powerful, and were part of the reason God wanted to destroy the entire population of the earth, suggests there was certainly something very unique about these “sons.”

2.  "Godly" descendants of Seth.  This really doesn’t make sense.  This claim makes the only “godly” people those who descended from Seth.  This view also (usually) says that the “daughters of men” were descended from Cain — as if everyone who descended from Cain was evil!  The Hebrew literally says “daughters of Adam,” which refers to all women.  If all the descendants of Seth were so godly, why weren’t anyone but Noah and his family saved?

3.  Kings or rulers described as “gods."  While some ancient rulers declared themselves to be gods, the context does not allow for this interpretation.  Also, if this was the case, they would certainly have daughters, but Nephilim are always referred to in the masculine gender, according to Bates.

4.  Humans possessed by demonic fallen angels.  This is similar to idea number 1, but in this case the possessed human would have normal human material for sexual relations, and the offspring would be normal humans, even if possessed.

As for the term “Nephilim,” Bates says the Hebrew comes from the root word “naphal,” which means “to fall or to be cast down.”  And he asks the question,Why were these offspring, if they were the progeny of human parents . . .  automatically condemned by God and regarded as fallen?  Being born into an ungodly family by unbelieving parents does not mean that one is excluded from the promises of God that arise from faith in Him.

To be fair, I must point out that while many scholars I’ve read agree with this origin of the word “Nephilim,” there are others who disagree.  So this term in and of itself should not be a hinge point as to who the “sons of God” are.

At any rate, I believe that the only theory about the “sons of God” which makes sense is that they were fallen angels.  Well-known theologian John MacArthur subscribes to the fallen angel view, although from reading his commentary I think he may subscribe to the human-possession view.  The NKJV Study Bible subscribes to this first view, as does Henry Morris in his study Bible (he even points out that this was the view in the apocryphal book of Enoch).  Additionally, the fallen angel view is also claimed by the footnotes in the NET Bible (New English Translation), by the Ryrie Study Bible, by Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s commentary on Genesis, et al.

I believe the case for the “sons of God” being fallen angels is the strongest case for their identity.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with fallen angels as well, it's the explanation that is most straightforward from - and consistent with - Scripture.

-Carolyn

castiron said...

I've heard it explained by Doug Hamp, that Children of God are directly created by God. So angels, all of them, since they were directly created by God. Adam and Eve because they were directly created by God. But not Adam & Eve's children. Their children are called daughters of men or sons of men.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Castiron,

I'll go along with that.

Doug Evans said...

I fully agree with you on the Children of God being angels, but for the Nephilim I am going to go with Strong's who says that it means Giants. It's used as we know in Genesis 6:4, but it's also used in Numbers 13:32-33 where the Hebrew spies did the initial recon on Canaan and came back and reported "men of great size" and they also mentioned the Nephilim and described them as being so big that ordinary men looked like grasshoppers.

And we know there were giants on the Earth, 1 Samuel 17 describes Goliath being about 10 feet tall - I'd consider him a giant - so I'm comfortable with Nephilim = Giant, and if I'm wrong it won't be the first time. But they're definitely not Ancient Aliens